The first half of 2017 hasn’t yielded a single breakout series in the way 2016 did with the brashly confident, instant classic The People v. O.J. Simpson. But it has offered up something terrific for all tastes. The most discussed series of the year so far has been either HBO’s Big Little Lies or Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Both have a great deal to recommend them, and both bring a seriousness of purpose to examining the bonds between women. The Handmaid’s Tale in particular, for all the splashiness of its premise and its look, is at its best when it’s at its most contemplative. The same is true of Hollywood melodrama Feud, inside-comedy story Crashing, and Vatican soap The Young Pope. This year, for a reason that may simply be coincidence, has caught the best of TV in a somewhat reflective mood. But even if these shows register in a minor key, they’re still pleasures to watch.

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